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READING, PA-Five projects here have received kick-start funding of almost $13.3 million from the state. In addition to creating at least 2,800 new jobs, Gov. Ed Rendell says the funding will “trigger economic growth” and bring “one of our historic and treasured cities back to prominence.”

The largest award, $5 million from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, is for construction of a four-story, 200-room hotel that will connect with Sovereign Center, the 7,083-seat multi-purpose civic arena that opened here in 2001. The hotel is designed to contain a 12,000-sf ballroom, 7,000 sf of pre-function space and 9,000 sf of breakout rooms. The estimated total construction cost is $47 million.

Almost $3.3 million is granted for construction of a 14-screen Downtown theater, scheduled to open Memorial Day 2007. The building will also contain two retail shops, and the total cost is estimated at $8 million.

A planned Philosopher’s Landing Amphitheater along the Schuylkill River obtained nearly $1.3 million in a combination of RACP and Growing Greener II funds for the first phase of new development along the riverbank at Reading Area Community College’s Yocum Library. The opening phase calls for a 500-seat amphitheater with additional space for 1,000 people on the adjoining grass area and is expected to cost $2.5 million.

The 403-acre site at the intersection of I 78 and Rte. 501 in Bethel Twp. landed $3 million for development of the Bethel Park I 78 Industrial Park. It will consist of eight separate parcels designed to accommodate an aggregate of four million sf of warehouse distribution space. Berks County also received $750,000 to demolish a blighted motel property on the Rte. 422 interchange entrance to West Reading to make way for the construction of new office and commercial space.

Of the state’s investment, Rendell says in a statement, “We’re effectively using our resources to improve the quality of life in our communities and to help them attract new businesses. By providing new resources to aging communities, we are revamping their infrastructure and ushering in a new era of job growth.”

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